No one should have their property taken away without a warrant, without a jury, and without judgment. Simply put, civil asset forfeiture is the taking of someone’s property by the Government. Civil asset forfeiture laws allow law enforcement agencies to confiscate property that they think have been used or involved in criminal activity. Law enforcement agencies claim this is a good tool that helps them fight organized crime, drug dealers, and other criminals. While it sounds like a good idea on paper, for those who deal with it in practice, it can seem like anything but.       

How Does Civil Asset Forfeiture Work?

Civil asset forfeiture can allow the police to take property from someone who is not even charged with a crime. Property that has been taken under the civil asset forfeiture has included cash, cars, and even people’s houses. Civil asset forfeiture laws are not the same everywhere. There are hundreds of them throughout the country. In addition to different laws from state to state, there are also Federal civil asset forfeiture laws. These laws generally have a few things in common.

Generally, the police need to allege that the property taken was somehow involved in the commission of a crime or related to the crime in some way.  Normally, the law requires the government to prove you are guilty of a crime (innocent until proven guilty), but that doesn’t apply when we are talking about civil asset forfeiture. Under civil asset forfeiture, the person who has had their property taken from them must prove that the property was not involved in a criminal act. Yes, you read that right. You will need to prove you are innocent before having a chance of getting your property returned to you.

How Can I Avoid This Happening to Me?

Civil asset forfeiture laws are in a class by themselves. If this was about a specific crime, like avoiding a drunk driving charge, the first suggestion would be don’t drink and drive. Unfortunately, there are no suggestions for avoiding civil asset forfeiture. For example, nobody can predict when they may be subjected to a routine traffic stop.  If this occurs, any money you possess at the time, and your vehicle itself, could fall to civil asset forfeiture if the police suspect you may be planning something illegal, such as purchasing illegal drugs. Another factor that comes into play here is that under most civil asset forfeiture laws the police are allowed to keep some (in some jurisdictions all) of the property that they take from you. In most jurisdictions, they can use the proceeds from the sale of these proceeds in whatever way they desire.  

What Comes Next?

Depending on the jurisdiction, the applicable civil forfeiture law will spell out any statutory deadline that applies for filing a claim to get your property returned to you. The proceeds from asset forfeitures provide a lot of money to police and other government agencies so they are not anxious or willing to give up this source of funding. If you don’t file the proper paperwork in a timely basis your property will be gone forever, regardless of any decision regarding your guilt or innocence.  

Consult a Defense Attorney at Piotrowski Law

If you have been a victim of civil asset forfeiture you need to contact one of the experienced defense attorneys at Piotrowski Law as soon as possible, without delay. Piotrowski Law knows the ins and outs of these complex laws. One of our Defense Attorneys will help you sort through the plethora of factors that need to be reviewed and help fight to restore your property. Call 305-204-5000 today for a free consultation.